For many fishermen, once the opening of trout season has passed, it’s all about Galilee, Jerusalem and wailing the west wall. That ragged run of blocks and rocks is known for being one of the earliest spots to find a new season’s first stripers. Word races through chat rooms, listservs and all corners of the interweb. Retired guys wearing flannel shirts their wives retired years ago anxiously twirl phone chords while the fancy ones flip open cell phones, calling and announcing the good news, usually with a few salty jabs that they just knew this would be the exact day they arrived.
For the uninitiated, Galilee’s west wall is often a migrating stripers first stop on their way to Block Island, Brenton Reef then eventually the coast of Maine. It’s one of four walls which make the Harbor Of Refuge for the Port of Galilee and technically, this wall is on the Jerusalem side. There’s the short wall, which juts just south of the venerable George’s of Galilee. That’s a great place to find stripers at night lurking amongst the rocks and along the structure-ridden bottom. A quick cast into the wash of a passing commercial fishing boat is often a great place to pick up a striper working through the spoils of a long trip. It’s also just a few feet from a parking spot for the ten casts and out crowd.
The center wall was laid in 1914 and according to the Army Corp of Engineers, is 6,970 feet long. When waters warm, it’s patrolled by boats and kayaks throughout the summer day and night. Depending on the month, stripers, fluke, scup, bluefish and albies will be found all along its length, often on both sides.
The hallowed west wall runs southerly and parallel to the short wall. It rises as a rambling heap across from George’s, emerging from wet sands just south of where some good people plant signs and raise lines as a reminder of who lives where and who doesn’t. It’s 3,640 feet with a tight bend to the southeast then a subtle return a bit more southerly. Best and most legal entrance will be from the state beach where parking is plenty after hours. The easterly walk is time well spent, with views and smells and breezes. You pass below summer houses, some dark since September last, some ablaze with porch lights and hibachis on the deck. If you’re a nocturnal fishermen, harbor lights and reds and greens of passing fishing boats will make the walk seem like just minutes. The siren of clam cakes calls near your first steps up the wall.
With the right conditions, stripers will pile up by the thousands and so do fishermen. Most guys are considerate, setting up their rods, buckets, lights and Marlboros with a decent stretch of rock between them and the next party. The first days of the migration, fish seem to favor different spots so each trip can mean a shorter or longer hike. Generally the rocks are large, flat and accommodating to those who watch their steps. Wear your Korkers.
Depending on wind direction, you might want to pack some bucktails, jig heads with DOA soft baits,
Crystal and Cocahoe Minnows.
Teasers, rigged a few feet above a bucktail are key.
The classic wood egg and bucktail also works well with a serious advantage in a sharp west wind. Dave Henault at Ocean State Tackle has reported squid sightings in Bristol Harbor so tipping your offering with some fresh strips may make all the difference. It’s also good to remember that those on that wall are there with the same hope: catching the first stripers of the year.
Please release fish carefully. These are young, hungry, migrating fish which represent not only our recreational passions but the survival of a species. Giving them a Bill Dance toss from three rocks up or extended Face Time schoolie selfies may result in unnecessary and avoidable mortality. With a little patience and elbow room, the west wall can produce countless stripers for hundreds of anglers.